Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Judging a Book by its Cover

My last post was a bit negative and I apologize.  I would prefer to keep my posts positive but there will be days when certain attitudes, characters and just life in general may get my goat.  My life has taken many twists and turns lately and for someone who does not deal well with change, there does come a time when I may not be able to help myself from penning my frustrations.

Thankfully, my frustration level has dropped since I last posted.  It helps that I was side-tracked while preparing for a family BBQ we had planned during the holiday weekend.  I was further distracted while I touched up the last few edits on my book and I was even more preoccupied as I ran through ideas regarding the cover I’d like to have for my book. 
What’s the big deal about a book cover?

It is a much tougher decision than you might think.  As a new author, I won’t pretend to believe my name will stand out or cause a flurry of quick sales.  I am a realist and there is no doubt that until an author becomes a household name, it must be accepted that books are generally judged by their cover.  Until my name is something readers actually look for, I have to draw them in…enticing them with a great cover design that will promise a real treat inside.  While a book cover has to jump out at you as you walk by in the bookstore, it is even more important when the cover is no larger than a finger print as readers scroll through titles on their Nooks and Kindles and every other electronic device now capable of downloading books.     
But what kind of book cover will really draw someone’s attention? 

Murder at the Lake
That is certainly the question of the day and it is a tough one to answer.  Every person has their own likes and dislikes.  Should the cover offer images of real people?  A landscape?  Or weather depicting a mood?  Are more readers drawn towards images of historical homes?  Of animals?   Or a mixture of all the above?  Should the cover include image fading, special effects or the use of illustrations? 
The choices are enough to give me a headache but it is also exhilarating because there are so many choices.  The trick is finding what will look and feel best for my particular story.  Of course, the deciding factor will not be whether I like the cover but whether the cover will do what is expected…and that is to interest readers who might not otherwise give me a second glance.

It is interesting to see what types of covers have been associated with various types of books.  Such as this cover for Twilight.  Who knew the simple photo of hands holding a red apple would later be symbolic to a new vampire-themed fantasy romance novel?
Lily's Letters
Many book covers are specially illustrated such as Harry Potter while others are simply designed with a peaceful photo which may or may not give you a real indication as to what type of story you might be in for.

My book series is a mystery series and I feel there are many more choices when it comes to that genre.  The covers of mystery novels have changed quite a lot over the years.  I still have my old Nancy Drew mystery books and the era is very evident when you first glance at the cover illustrations.  While the covers may show their age, they do bring back fond memories for me.

Homicide in Hardcover
Death Drops

Many “cozy” mysteries on sale now use covers that usually draw me in.  There’s just something about them that I like. 

They feel comfortable, even if they do involve a murder.

Unnatural Exposure
Of course, once your name is what draws people to your books, an author can use any method while creating a somewhat eye-catching cover as long as the author’s name stands out.
Notice how these last two book covers differ from the two before?  The authors’ names stand out more than the title or even more than the cover image while the cozy mysteries are focused on the cover image and the name of the story but the authors’ names are left to fade into the background.
It is a matter of choice.  It is a choice to be made by the author but in the end, the choice is left up to the readers.

While writing a book was difficult, it was enjoyable and I’ve come to love my characters and the lives they lead.  What I do not enjoy is the idea that I may not choose a book cover that will adequately portray my characters or my story in an attractive and enticing way.  A cover is the most important first impression my book will give as it hits the market and while it is not nice to judge a book by its cover when speaking about people, I will certainly keep in mind that readers will, in fact, judge my book by its cover.   

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